Sports trading cards were once tops in the collectibles world. In the last 10 years, over-hype, overproduction, and player scandal have decimated the hobby. It is just now beginning to come back, but as a hobby and not as an investment as one shop owner told me recently.

One of the original trading card manufacturers, The Topps Company has been on the trading block lately. CFO Catherine Jessup recently left and rival Upper Deck threw out a $450 million curveball of an offer, leaving the industry in an uncertain state.

It is a dark age for the traditional baseball card store. Many dealers are unloading valuable product for pennies on the dollar on Ebay. Regardless, there have been some amazing products coming from all sides. With prices so low and many premium athletes undervalued, 2007 has been the perfect time for collectors to get back in the game.

If you’re like many collectors just starting to look back into the hobby, here’s what’s going on: Rookie and vintage cards are holding their value. Magglio Ordonez’s 1998 rookie cards and C.C. Sabathia’s 1999 rookies are on the rise. On the flip side, cards with game-used materials–bats, balls, jerseys, etc—are seemingly worthless unless they come off a major star player and are rare, serial numbered gems.

One card set sticks out lately. 2007 Topps Allen & Ginter claims to have a card with an actual piece of George Washington’s hair. Another card, a cutout autograph of Mother Teresa, just sold for $10,000 on Ebay!

Three of Upper Deck’s latest releases show diversity the hobby.

2007 Upper Deck Artifacts have been extremely devalued. The set should have been a hit. Each box of 10 packs contains three memorabilia cards; autographs are all over the place, and unique 1 of 1 cards make packs tasty lottery tickets for resellers.

Unfortunately. The appearance of cheap Target and Wal-Mart variety blister boxes has thrown the value of base cards way down. What’s more, while the rare and unique cards are extraordinary pulls, most of the memorabilia cards are junk.

I cracked open a box of UD Artifacts to see for myself. The three memorabilia cards were disappointing, but did show some life. Finding Josh Johnson and Vernon Wells jersey cards was a heartbreaker. They were serial numbered to 199, but there’s no star power here. Most collectors don’t collect these guys—and that means, no matter what the price guides say, the cards aren’t worth anything. I did pull a David Ortiz jersey card too—great for my personal collection, bad for people looking to turn around a profit because it’s also not worth much.

Base cards are pretty, shiny and well designed. The best ones I found were a Delmon Young rookie and a Derek Jeter. Jeter cards are always among the most valuable.

In football, 2007 Upper Deck First Edition is the perfect trading card for young collectors. I call it the “brothers box.” The base set is only 100 cards. I made the set twice with cards to spare and pulled nearly every NFL rookie in my box. A full box goes for as low as $30 on Ebay. That means mom and dad can buy one box (36 packs, 10 cards per pack) and two kids can each get every card and have enough to trade with and fight over later.

I also found three Michael Vick cards in this box–which is an interesting twist, because this is one of the only sets that Vick will appear in this year, making the cards fairly rare.

Depressingly, while I got nearly every rookie card, except for the main two—JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn. I also didn’t get any major inserts; no autographs, rare cards or memorabilia. It’s still a good set and remarkably cheap.

The biggest surprise out of Upper Deck lately came from hockey. 2006-07 Ultimate Collection is a rare and expensive product. Each box contains four packs, and each pack contains an average of one autograph, one rookie, and one memorabilia card!

Every card in the 60-card base set is serial numbered to 699. A limited print run base set means the rare and unique cards are easier to find. This set has everything from autographed rookie cards limited to 99 in existence to triple memorabilia cards serial numbered to five. It’s an amazing product and a must-have for hockey fans.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at guilfoil.j@blastmagazine.com. Tweet @johnguilfoil.